Monday, February 9, 2009

My town's Quirks

This has been a post in progress for a few weeks. It started as a rant about my town and its quirks, and has morphed into that and a rant about AK in general...

There are several amusing lists I have seen about, "You know you're an Alaskan when.." and most of the stereotypes are at the least partly true. I have listed a few of my favorites below that especially apply to my expereience here.
  • Your idea of a traffic jam is 10 cars waiting to pass a motor home on the highway.
  • "Vacation" means going to Anchorage for the weekend.
  • You measure distance in hours.
  • You know several people who have hit moose more than once.
  • You see people wearing hunting clothes at social events.
  • Driving is better in the winter because the potholes are filled with snow.
  • You know all 4 seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter, and construction.
  • You didn't know what the word "county" meant, and we were never taught about "area codes"... 907 is all you had to know. (We have "boroughs" here instead of counties. It threw me off for several years of my life!)
  • You think bald eagles aren't that great
  • You know to go to Best Buy a month after a CD release because that’s when it will FINALLY arrive in Alaska
  • You go to school, work, or both in the dark and come out in the dark
  • 30 degrees is shorts weather. And 65 is hot.
  • There is 4 feet of snow the night before school and you STILL have to go.
  • If you don’t like the weather wait for 5 minutes and then go back out outside.
  • Salmon isn’t a delicacy, it's a staple.
  • You call someone without a crack in there windshield a tourist. A car here is not broken in until there is a crack in the windshield.
  • Your parents taking you trick-or-treating involves riding door-to-door in the car
  • You design your kid's Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit.

My town is an odd place. Men go to weddings wearing Carhartts. Some get married in them. There are only 2 real dressy restaurants here, and when you do dress up to go there, they look at you funny. Most teenagers dress stylishly here, but that's about it. And most of the styles are several months behind. It is very laidback and low key. Snow doesn't faze anyone. Neither do earthquakes (although the one a few weeks ago DID have everyone talking). Or volcanoes. We might have one about the erupt, but Alaskans are a hardy crowd. We are an artistic community, with as many churches, if not more now, as bars. Art galleries abound.

Alaskan cars don't need air conditioning. But they definitely need heat! My car's AC doesn't work...and I've never needed it.

We don't have tornadoes, hurricanes or snakes.

Today I went and ran an errand wearing sweatpants. Not one person looked at me funny. People go to the grocery store in their pajamas, with bad hat hair, and they just keep on going.

Kids get married young and start popping out the babies. Education is promoted, but it leaves much to be desired. Most kids commercial fish or work on the Slope to make money. It's a fact of life.

It's impossible to go anywhere public without recognizing or knowing someone there. I recognized the clerk at the drugstore this morning. I knew the girl who made my order at McD's today. Going to the grocery store, I know about half of the clerks on duty, but all are familiar faces.

We have a large community of Russians here. Sometimes we aggravate each other, but for the most part, we can all coexist.

Other than them, there is very little ethnic diversity in our town. Very very little. There are several Asian families, but that's about it. We don't even have hardly any Alaska Natives here.

Everything is more expensive here. Our gas is still $2.73, and it has been for about a month. The gas companies have a monopoly and charge whatever they feel like. Milk is $4 a gallon. Houses are really expensive. Even the McD's menus are more expensive than in the Lower 48. We might have a higher minimum wage and we might get a big dividend from the state every year, but it's essential to lower and middle class people. That money is eaten up by the higher prices of everything. Going on a vacation is expensive and time consuming. Every Alaskan kid has been on at least one plane ride.

Most kids here have been out on boats all their lives. I don't know many people here that get sea sick. We've all been "across the Bay" and love it.

Tourists invade our land every summer. They drive slow, take up parking places with huge motorhomes, and just crowd everything - the stores, the roads, etc. And yet, the community depends on them coming. Many jobs, including mine, exist for them.

There are no shopping malls here. The nearest mall is an hour and a half away, and that isn't much of one. That is also where the first box stores are. Walmart is almost 5 hours away. We don't live here for the convenience. We have one movie theatre that gets movies about a month after they are released everywhere else.

Most people here love outdoor toys - boats, fourwheelers and snow machines. My brother in particular lives for winter to snow machine.

We live with mountains and ocean in our view almost all the time. Many people call it the most beautiful place on earth. And truthfully, I've not seen too many places that compare.

Alaska can be hard and aggravating to live with. And yet, it is so worth it. The scenic views around me are more than enough to keep me here. The people are friendly and helpful, if a bit cranky sometimes :) It's a different life here, but it makes just that more unique.